01 – Welcome to the first exciting issue of performance
Welcome to the exciting first issue of Performance, our new online magazine that we hope will entertain and inform you about the wide world of Öhlins and the people that have made it the company it is today…
Öhlins is in an exciting time today with an unprecedented amount of racing activities around the world, new technological breakthroughs in many areas and expansion and growth into many different parts of the world. A lot has happened since we started this journey back in the 70’s.
In fact we have so many stories to tell from around the world, inside the factory, on two and four wheels (and skis!) that the first job has been to try and decide what will make this first edition!
We decided on Thorleif; a friend and an inspiration to many younger people here at Öhlins, of course a look at our famous passion of Rallying, the beautiful new Lamborghini Aventador, vibrant British Superbike Championship, the extreme snowmobile race Iron Dog in Alaska and many, many more stories…
Most of all we want Performance to be about those people who fly the flag for Öhlins – customers who have found new and exciting ways to innovate with our products. We want to hear from you and feature those stories in our future editions.
We hope you enjoy the magazine and look forward to your comments and suggestions.
02 – Sweden – Is there something in the water?
When we think of Öhlins it is easy to attribute the utter domination of two and four wheel motorsport, plus OE arrangements with major manufacturers, to a massive global corporation like Ford, however the reality is very different. Employing just over 200 staff and located in a sleepy province away from Stockholm, the factory creates the most precise, technologically advanced suspension in the world, yet manages to exude a warm, almost ‘small family business’ mentality. It is essentially Swedish…
This charming, unspoilt and sparsely populated nation (it has 21 inhabitants per km2 v 229 per km2 for Germany) is home to huge forests (65% of its surface), lakes and arctic tundra to the north. Its main industries are timber, iron ore and high end technology. Interestingly, as a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product, the Swedish government spends the most of any nation on research and development, a philosophy wholeheartedly embraced by a certain suspension manufacturer in Upplands Vasby near Stockholm.
Sweden has never had F1 or MotoGP champions in its heritage but its racers have dug their own furrow, in the most earthy sense of the word….. Maybe because of its vast trails, adventurous inhabitants and easy access to land, Sweden has always been passionate for both Rallying and Motocross disciplines.
Home to legendary off-road bike manufacturer Husqvarna, Swedish riders were prodigious in World Motocross through the 60-70’s with riders such as Bill Nilsson, Bengt Åberg, Torsten Hallman and ‘our’ own Thorleif Hansen.
In the ‘hardman’ events of Enduro, Anders Eriksson took the World crown an incredible seven times. It was in this backdrop of competitive spirit and pioneering engineering that Kenth Öhlin first rode then plied his trade, to lay the foundations that were later to come. Speedway and ice speedway are incredibly popular in Sweden and rank only behind football and ice hockey for viewing numbers.
On four wheels Stig Blomqvist, Per Eklund, Björn Waldegård and many others showed the world that Swedish Rally drivers were a force to be reckoned with.
The legendary Rally Sweden has now run since 1950 and is seen by many as the ultimate test of winter driving and is part of the prestigious WRC series.
Sweden has of course had success on the tarmac most notably with two time F1 runner-up Ronnie Peterson, who was taken before his time at Monza in 1978 and is still considered one of the all time greats with massive unfulfilled potential. Kenny Bräck took on the Yanks at their own game winning the Indy500 and Indycar championship whilst Rickard Rydell was a BTCC superstar in the 90’s..On two wheels double World 125cc Champion Kent Andersson flew the blue and yellow flag in the eight litre GP class.
So that touches on the Motorsport heritage of Sweden but there is definitely something else that makes up the essence of the ‘Öhlins spirit’…
WORD ASSOCIATION… LIVING THE STEREOTYPE?
We ran a ‘Performance’ test and asked 100 ‘foreigners’ what words they associated with Sweden and these were the top results; healthy living, modern, clean, design lead, blondes, forests, Midnight Sun, Vikings, Volvo and of course, Abba!
As a visitor to the Öhlins factory this writer can confirm many of these stereotypes to be true and maybe, just maybe, are attributable in part of the DNA of this unique, worldwide brand.
The factory is indeed incredibly clean, efficient, modern and functional as you would expect, even to the extent that the staff canteen was a pleasurable experience!
There does seem to be a very high number of blonde employees at the factory, albeit mostly with moustaches and of the male variety. We also misjudged each interviewee’s age by at least a decade, a nod to that healthy living, ‘swimming up an icy river’ image that we may have of the Swedes.
Every employee we spoke to seemed driven by a warm enthusiasm and pride for their job and for the company itself, a rare quality in any workforce.
Many of the team had spent time in the racetracks of the world assigned to two and four wheel squads or as R+D technicians. There is a sense of constant exploration and a desire to pioneer in new lands, perhaps part of the Viking bloodline but of course without the pillaging.
Obviously these are mere anecdotes and as we have said National stereotypes but you get the feeling that the Öhlins phenomenon has been created by the geography, history and people of Sweden.
SOME INTERESTING SWEDISH FACTS…
• Sweden boasts one of the highest life expectancies and one of the lowest birth rates in the world.
• Right hand driving was adopted in Sweden in 1967. One day at 4.50am everyone had to change from the left over to the right hand side of the road, in a perfectly executed logistical operation!
• All the Tsars of Russia till the last one, Nicholas II, were of Swedish Viking descent.
• On an average, Swedish women have their first child at 30 years.
• Some of the greatest pop bands and singers are Swedish, viz. Abba, Roxette, Ace of Base, A*Teens, The Cardigans, Robyn, etc.
• Sweden has the highest number of McDonald restaurants, per capita, in Europe.
• Sweden has the highest number of nuclear plants, per capita.
• Sweden was the first country to grant suffrage for (married) women in local elections.
• The first ice hotel of the world was built near the village of Jukkasjärvi, in Kiruna district of Sweden.
• The largest hemispherical building in the world, ‘The Stockholm Globe Arena’, is in Sweden. It is also the ‘largest scale model of the Solar System’ and hosts Ice hockey, sports and concerts.
• The proportion of personal computers, per capita, in Sweden is the highest in Europe.
• Swedes have been known for a number of inventions, including astronomical lens, zipper, marine propeller, refrigerator, computer mouse and pace-maker.
• Some of the biggest industrial companies registered in Sweden are Ikea, Volvo, Sandvik, Sony Ericsson, Scania and SKF
• The Nobel Prizes were founded by Alfred Nobel, a Swede who invented dynamite in 1866.
• The favourite dish of Swedes usually comprises of meatballs, with potatoes and lingonberry sauce.
• A popular souvenir in Sweden is the road sign for moose-crossing. Surprisingly, a large number of these signs are stolen from Swedish roads every year, mostly by tourists!
03 – Generation Ö
“Of course I don’t ache,” Thorleif Hansen looks almost confused by our question.
He may be 63 years old but despite today being his first time back on a bike in over a year since having a serious knee operation, when you are a six times Swedish MX Champion and have finished runner-up in the 250cc World Championship you don’t let a little ache get in the way of a day’s motocross testing. A point his thoroughly worn out looking, and considerably younger, colleagues may argue…
As one of the main motocross test-riders for Öhlins for over three decades, you’d be forgiven for thinking the man who was raised a mere tabletop jump from the factory might be due a rest, “I love my job so why stop? Maybe in four or five years time when my wife retires so will I, we’ll see. I think hanging around young guys keeps you on your toes, so that’s good,” reasons Thorleif. Two of those younger guys are his sons Terje and Robin who also work at the impressive Öhlins factory at Upper Vasby near Stockholm, so maybe he also wants to keep them on their toes.
“For sure it’s great that my boys work here but I try and let them go their own way.
My middle son Tom is a producer on Swedish radio so it’s good that one of us does something different and has a life outside of suspension!”
Eldest son Terje followed his father’s footsteps into motocross GPs and then to the US race scene as a suspension technician whilst Robin has chosen a totally different route and now works in the automotive division.
One can’t help thinking that Thorleif is an inspirational character to more than just his two offspring in the Öhlins HQ.
His story goes back as far as that of his friend and employer Kenth Öhlin, who he raced against in the fiercely contested Swedish MX series in the late 1960s. Although a talented rider in his own right, Kenth recognised Thorleif’s impressive skills and instead of competing against him, using his engineering ability he first modified then made new suspension units for Hansen’s factory Kawasaki to great effect.
Thorleif raced in the World 250cc Championship from 1968-78 with impressive results but is also renowned in America as he raced each winter over there after the International series finished.
“It was a never ending season, we’d finish up the World Championship then head out to the States to do twelve American races all over the country. I realised America is a big place but it’s even bigger if you have to travel by car! It was such a great experience, I was based out of California and it was a fantastic time to be there.
“The races were actually tougher in the States as there was only one class for Pros; the 500cc division and those bikes were animals. You have to remember that the factory 500 two-strokes of the 1980s had maybe 15bhp more than a 450F bike of today – but none of the handling! I think the three biggest innovations that helped us riders were long travel suspension, water-cooling and then disc brakes, which made suspension, power and braking so much more consistent.”
When Thorleif finished his GP career in 1978 after a brilliant second place series finish in his favoured 250cc class, he went to work at Öhlins until 1987 when he decided he should try his hand at something else, in this case the construction industry. However before long he got a call from Kenth saying ‘it has been ten years, it’s time to come back’. A part-time test riding job soon turned into full-time and he’s still there now, enjoying his days making a difference at the factory.
In 2008 Thorleif visited California again – not on holiday, to race. He won the Veterans World Championship (+60 class) at the prestigious Glen Helen circuit. Will he always be this competitive? “My wife has always said ‘life goes on, even if you aren’t winning’ – it has taken me a long time to start to understand this though…”
04 – Alaskan ice race sorts the big dogs from the pups!
The Iron Dog snowmobile race in Alaska is one of the World’s most extreme races, as competitors battle through deep snow for over 2000 miles in brutal conditions. This year, two native Alaskans, Dusty VanMeter and Marc McKenna, took a new course record of 35 hours 39 minutes on Ski-Doos fitted with Öhlins shocks…
The event was originally devised to prepare the ground for the famous Iditarod dog-sled race, so that that the terrain wouldn’t be deadly to the huskies needing to drive sleds through deep snow. But putting “snow-machine” (snowmobile) teams on the course, and having them ride from end to end is, well, a race. So it took only a few hours for the organisers to admit that and start handing out trophies, allowing the event to mature into a respected endurance race of its own, involving not barking huskies but ‘iron dogs’.
It’s an endurance race where broken parts can be more deadly than high-speed accidents and where a teammate is a life-saving requirement.
This year the Iron Dog started in Big Lake, Alaska, near Wasilla. From there the course headed North-West to Nome, then finally back east to Fairbanks. The race began this year on February 19th, at 11am. That means that there was a glow of twilight in the southern sky when the race began and also the amazing dancing Northern Lights.
About 30-40 teams compete in the Iron Dog each year and they are required to have two sleds and two riders for safety. During the race nothing is allowed to be abandoned out on the trail and the event is carefully regulated to protect the wild environment of Alaska. The fuel stops are about every 100 miles and all are manned with hardy volunteers.
Winning driver VanMeter said at the finish “I’ve been doing this race for 17 years, it’s an addiction. Any stupid thing can take you out. Last year we had a lead like this year and it was 20-below with blowing snow. They’d dug a hole into the river and down I went into it. I was soaked up to the waist and my partner got me out and to a local village. We lost six and a half hours and lost the race by about 90 minutes.
We’ve got two good riders and the proper equipment, we know what to do to win, but anything can happen in the middle of nowhere. I do all of our suspension work to make them ride properly. I’ve been running Öhlins since 2009 and no one can keep up with us. We’re literally doing 80-90 mph over two foot bumps, and if you don’t have good suspension you’re going to break the sled or crash.
It was rough over the ice, which can rip your machine up. I set the shocks up and valve them to get the best oil flow. They never fade, they never fail.
In some sections you can hold the throttle wide open for miles. We headed down a river for a while and we averaged 98 miles an hour!”
Ron Zugg, owner of Zugger shocks in Palmer, AK, (zuggershocks.com), told us, “This is a big deal for us as it’s only the second time that Ski-Doo has won this race. This event is so rough and the conditions are so hard, a failure takes a team out. Reliability wins this race which is why most guys are on Öhlins now.
It’s a safety thing as well as a winning strategy: better parts can keep you alive. Your equipment needs to be really solid, so your odds go way up and you’ll have a good race if you put Öhlins on your machine. Suspension is the first thing you want to improve for an Iron Dog. The winners of this year’s race did their own thing; modify the shocks, re-valve them, they have their own tricks.”
The Iron Dog is a mix of speed, deadly temperatures, high wind, rough terrain, endurance, surprise obstacles, moose, and the dark of a never-ending night. Is there a more grueling test of man and machine? It’s doubtful!
We await a competitor to do both the Dakar and Iron Dog, then report to us; which is worse; the rock and sands of arid deserts, or the snow and ice of the arctic sled race…
05 – British coronations
There is no dispute that MotoGP is the pinnacle of two wheel bikesport but there is also a massive worldwide appetite for all forms of club and National racing which acts as a feeder system for this ‘big league’…
So, which national motorcycle race series is the most watched? The massive American AMA Championship backed up by 10 million registered bikes? The Japanese JSB class where most of the world’s sports bikes come from? The Italian Superbike Championship – from the land of Rossi, Ducati and the most passionate fans? The answer may surprise you. It’s none of the above, the most watched national race series is the British Superbike Championship. A series held on a small and often rainy island, that last won the blue riband 500cc GP class back in 1977, regularly attracts over 400,000 paying spectators throughout the season.
The real question, and one that the organisers of the other series should be asking themselves, is simple – why? The reasons are numerous but include a long history of motorcycle sport, a multitude of excellent venues (including the world-renowned Silverstone, Donington Park and Brands Hatch circuits) and crucially an organising body that continually changes the rules to keep grids full and the racing close. This year the series travels to the Cathedral of Speed – the mighty sweeping circuit of Assen – possibly signaling even wider ambitions.
It is to this bubbling cauldron of competition that Öhlins takes great pride in its record of 14 British Superbike (BSB) crowns in just 16 years, relying heavily on its national distributors and service centres such as Harris Performance. Enormously impressive in a series that can only be described as ‘talent heavy’. BSB has always attracted some impressive competitors with home grown stars Niall Mackenzie, Neil Hodgson, John Reynolds and Shane Byrne having mixed it up with living legend, and 1999 BSB Champion, Troy Bayliss as well as last year’s runner up, GP hero John ‘Hopper’ Hopkins. What links all of these riders? Each one sported gold forks and shock absorbers on their bikes.
For 2012 the series organisers decided to try and curb costs with a number of measures including a single spec engine control unit (ECU) effectively outlawing traction control, anti-wheelie and launch control. If anything, these changes have meant that rider skill and the team’s ability with chassis set-up have become even more important than ever.
Suspension technician Richard Brendish, from long-time Öhlins distributor Harris Performance, explains: “The relationship between the rider and his suspension engineer has probably never been more intense. Riders are much more savvy in terms of what change has what effect. There’s a lot of analysing and the level of sophistication is higher than it has ever been. You can achieve such subtle changes, but in a field as competitive as the 2012 BSB, small changes can be the difference between first and fifth place.
“I’ve been in the paddock twelve years now, starting with our own Harris SP Honda SP-1 with Shakey Byrne, through Crescent Suzuki, Virgin Yamaha, GSE Ducati and then HM Plant (now Samsung) Honda. In that time the paddock has become more professional; teams realised they needed the best technical support and so we grew our support. We started out with a Transit van and it grew until we built the ‘artic’ – we expanded with the series and the bike market – which was burgeoning at the time.
“To start with there was a real battle between Öhlins and WP in BSB, but we worked hard and Öhlins is now the suspension of choice. We still have competitors in the paddock, which is good as it keeps everyone on top of their game – you can’t become complacent in a series as fierce as BSB.”
Niall Mackenzie was British Superbike Champion from 1996-1998 for Cadbury Boost Yamaha and the triple BSB champion continues to live in the BSB paddock, helping his two sons at the start of their racing careers; “I remember in 1996 when BBC started broadcasting BSB, it was a massive help getting sponsors and increasing the level of competition within the series. That ethos continues to this day, it’s so professional with big crowds and a vast depth of talent.
“Our Yamaha YZF750s were ex-factory World Superbike machines and we had a great link with the Öhlins technicians. My crew chief Ade Marsh was very good at translating what I could feel on track and using his skill and knowledge to make the required changes to the suspension and chassis. We rode the two WSB events each year at Donington Park and Brands Hatch, both of which provided a great opportunity to catch up with the Öhlins guys.
“I have to say I’ve spent most of my career on Öhlins, including when I was riding 500GPs with Yamaha from ’89 onwards. I’ve always been a big fan of Öhlins and was a lot happier signing for a team if I knew they were using it.”
British Superbike Championship – Öhlins Successes
Niall Mackenzie – Cadbury’s Boost Yamaha YZF750- 1996-8
Troy Bayliss – INS GSE Ducati 996 – 1999
Neil Hodgson – INS GSE Ducati 996 – 2000
John Reynolds – Reve Red Bull Ducati 996 – 2001
Steve Hislop – MonsterMob Ducati 998 – 2002
Shane Byrne – MonsterMob Ducati 998 – 2003
John Reynolds – Rizla Crescent Suzuki GSXR1000 – 2004
Gregorio Lavilla – GSE Airwaves Ducati 999 – 2005
Shane Byrne – GSE Airwaves Ducati 1098 – 2008
Leon Camier – GSE Airwaves Yamaha YZF-R1 – 2009
Ryuichi Kiyonari – HM Plant Honda CBR1000RR – 2010
Tommy Hill – Swan Yamaha YZF-R1 – 2011
06 – How does it work? – The selective steering stabiliser – S3
Öhlins’ Engineer Joakim Sundevall explains how the revolutionary Selective Steering Stabilizer, the S3, has taken the off-road world by storm…
The idea of monitoring which way a rider is steering arose from solving a problem created by the two-wheel drive system that Öhlins developed in conjunction with Yamaha on a WRF450F enduro bike. Due to the addition of the two-wheel drive system, which contained a lot of hydraulic fluid and pipes, the front end of the bike was very heavy. This necessitated the use of a basic form of power steering.
The movable handlebar clamp needs something like 0.5 degrees of movement before the damper is activated. A larger amount of movement gives a feeling of too much ‘play’. The flex in front fork and front wheel is greater than the movement of the movable handlebar clamp so you do not notice the movement when you ride.
The movable handlebar clamp rotates around a torsion bar, and in front of the movable handlebar clamp a pin is located. The pin is connected to the valves in the valve housing. The valves control the damping level.
Therefore the S3 is continually ‘monitoring’ the way the steering is being applied in relation to the front wheel. The result is a damper that feels very natural at low speed and remains ‘inert’ over jumps, helping the rider with low speed control. However when there is a sudden input from an outside force such as a rock or tree root, the system instantly activates to increase the damping.
The system has a reservoir with a floating piston and is pressurised to reduce the risk of cavitation and maintains an effective damping force in a wide temperature range.
What is important to note is that the system doesn’t use any electrical or electronic componentry- everything works mechanically and hydraulically. In these days of almost complete electronic control it is nice to know some systems rely on mechanics and ‘feel’.
We believe the S3 will meet the demands of riders who like the benefits and safety of a steering damper in an off-road environment, but not the intrusive feel at low speed or during certain handlebar movements such as low speed turns, or whips or scrubs while airborne in motocross.
And professional riders have also tested it to the extreme! Yamaha France rider David Casteau used an S3 in this years Dakar Rally and reporting it worked perfectly even in the extremes of Argentina.”
07 – Motorsport round-up – Automotive
24 Hour Domination!
An incredible 240,000 spectators enjoyed the 80th running of the prestigious Le Mans 24hr race which saw the works Audi squad again dominate with a clean sweep of the podium. A great picture for the boardroom in Ingolstadt and also for their suspension suppliers back in Sweden…
The impressive R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrid took a historic first Le Mans victory for a hybrid vehicle, with its stablemate in second, whilst R18 ultras, the non-hyrbid derivitive took third and fifth.
Audi’s main competitors, Toyota, made their welcome return to Le Mans with an imporess display but were ultimately ruled out of the running with two accidents, one of which most notably was a high speed collision and backflip of the No. 8 car driven by Anthony Davidson as he went airborne at the Mulsanne Corner.
The Thunder from Down Under
Australia’s most popular motorsport, V8 Supercars, continues to pull in record crowds, attract big sponsors and produce great bumper-to-bumper racing. It is one of only two motorsport categories in the world considered more popular in its own country than F1. The other is NASCAR.
The series not only visits such legendary circuits as Eastern Creek, Philip Island and Bathurst and the finest Australia and New Zeeland has to offer. It also host rounds as a support event to Formula One in Melbourne, joins Formula One in Abu Dhabi and for next year the brand new race track ‘Circuit of Americas’ in Austin, Texas.
With the introduction of a new generation V8 Supercar for 2013, Nissan has announced its return and joins the traditional Holden vs. Ford battle in what promises to bring yet further close and exciting racing.
Öhlins is one of the two chosen suspension suppliers which teams can select for shock absorbers. Through the Australian distributor Steve Cramer Products, Öhlins work with a number of top teams. Expect a full feature in a future edition of Performance…
‘The season so far has been an intense battle between the Vodafone Triple Eight Team and the Ford Performance Team. After 13 out of the 28 races the title is now a four way fight between Jamie Whincup, Will Davidson, Mark Winterbotton and Craig Lowndes. However, Holden Racing Team has as always been fighting for the top positions and Garth Tander has with three podiums not strayed far from the title fight with a lot of points still to fight for.
The WTCC series has seen the factory Chevrolet squad completely dominate the series so far the reigning Champions return with the same driver-car-team combination which took them to the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles for the past two seasons
Triple Champion Yvan Muller leads the points with teammates Rob Huff and Alain Menu a good distance in front of all the other competitors.
WRC – MINI fights on
In the world of rallying, and in this case the World Rally Championship, the MINI WRC-teams have soldiered on.
After a brilliant second place by Dani Sordo in the opening round, the classic Rally Monte Carlo, followed up by a points finish by Swede Patrik Sandell in Rally Sweden, the MINI Prodrive team has only run selected rounds. In New Zealand they returned, and were back on form. Dani Sordo claimed a sixth place overall and finished on a high with two stage wins on the last day. The signs of improvement were seen already in Rally Portugal where the team brought a lot of updates including new Öhlins gravel dampers and a more powerful engine in the MINI Countryman WRC. Dani Sordo finished first or second on more than 50 % of the stages he completed. These improvements have also seen Armindo Araujo in the points recently.
The Prodrive MINI WRC team will return to action in Rally Germany where they claimed a podium last year.
Rallycross- Tradition meets Showbiz!
The sport of Rallycross has long been enjoyed across Europe creating legends such as Sweden’s Per Eklund and Kenneth Hansen to name just two of many legendary rallycross drivers and it’s fair to say the sport has stayed fairly constant in its content and appeal. However that has been changed radically in a way that only the Americans can!
This year sees the introduction of Global Rallycross – televised on ESPN, the series is run in conjunction with NASCAR Sprint Cup and IndyCar weekends as well as the iconic X Games 18.
Several marques are fielding factory- or importer-supported efforts including Ford, Hyundai, Subaru and Dodge and some big names are taking part including the king of extreme sports Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, Marcus Grönholm, and BMX legend Dave Mirra joined by Tanner Foust who doubles with driving in both America and in the European championship!
Because the series is American (and no insult intended) the events feature an almost unbelievable 70 foot gap jump! Of course this really sorts the men from the boys and the Swedish suspension from some others…..
Land of The Rising Sun
In Japan, Formula Nippon is an internationally recognized single seater championship. Teams are free to choose shock absorber suppliers and several teams have chosen Öhlins, supplied through the Öhlins Japanese distributor Carozzeria.
Last year’s Formula Nippon and 2012 Le Mans 24 hour champion Andre Lotterer continues in the series this year. The German driver is once again in the title hunt after three rounds having won one race as he sits fourth overall in the points. Former F1-driver and Toyota Le Mans driver ENTER NAME HERE who finished second overall to Andre Lotterer drives for the same team as the German and has also won one race so far this season. However he sits second in the championship standings. The shock absorber of choice for them and other teams on the grid is the Öhlins is the TTR. Launched in 2011 the TTR is a development of the Le Mans style shock absorbers.
In the Japanese GT Championship the top class is the GT500 with prototype styled GT-machinery from Nissan, Lexus and Honda.
The races are run over 300km or 1000 km with two drivers and a mandatory driver change. Several Formula Nippon drivers also participate in the GT championship and Öhlins is one of the shock absorber manufacturers represented in the series. After three races the Öhlins equipped LexusSC430 from Team Zent Cerumo heads the championship with drivers Yuji Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate. The top three cars in the championship feature Öhlins suspension. The Honda HSV-010 GT of Takuya Izawa and Naoki Yamamoto sits in second place ahead of the Lexus of Juichi Wakisaka and Hiroaki Ishiura. The Championsip has five races yet to run and as such there’s still a long way to go.
The madness called the 24 hours of Nürburgring
Every year racing enthusiasts visit the Nürburgring in May/June for the annual 24 hour race. The race takes place not only on the GP-circuit but the fearsome and legendary Nordschleife.
One lap takes in 24 km of the most challenging and complex tarmac in the racing world. This is a unique race that also attracts unique competitors and vehicles from all around the world, however it is the factory backed GT3 class that makes up the most competitive runners.
The 2012 race was super-competitive with more or less all marques represented in the top category where the GT3 cars the dominant class. This year the race became a 24-hour long sprint but in the end Audi were victorious with Audi Sport Team Phoenix with drivers Marc Basseng, Christopher Haase, Frank Stippler and Markus Winkelhock taking the spoils.
Öhlins equipped cars also saw class victories.. The diesel powered Peugeot RCZ held the lead for most of the race in the SP2T category and won the class with a 5 minute margin. In the V3 category the Toyota Swiss Racing team proved unbeatable with their Toyota GT86 with shock absorbers built by Öhlins Germany.
Italian Superstars – no longer an Italian affair
The Italian Superstars series has grown in recent years and now has a field of international drivers and a calendar that includes races in UK, Hungary, Belgium, Indonesia and Portugal in addition to the Italian rounds.
The series consists of road-based, in most vases V8-powered, four and two door four-seater saloon cars, with several major manufactures represented. The 2012 grid has 35 drivers participating and after five rounds former F1-driver Vitantonio Liuzzi heads the standings in a Mercedes ahead of GT-ace Thomas Biagi in a BMW and Swedish rookie Johan Kristoffersson driving an Audi.
A majority of the teams are using Öhlins and are serviced and supplied through the Öhlins Italian distributor Andreani Group. There are four race weekends left with Spa in Belgium in mid July being the next round. Only eight points separate the first three and with 10 points available for a race win and with two races per weekend there are still plenty of points to gain. Expect a tough title battle right down to the wire in Indonesia where the final round is held at the Sentul race track.
Racing in the States
Covering the racing in the states is a chapter on its own. With everything from Stock Car Racing to Indy Car, Sprint cars, Dirt Late Model, Rallycross, rallying and GT and touring car racing it’s a subject we expect to return to in a future issue of Performance.
08 – Motorsport round-up – Motorcycle
MotoGP 2012– A tale of three Champions…
The 2012 MotoGP season has seen some of the most spectacular action in recent years as ex-Champions Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo trade hard fought wins (4-3 to the Spaniard up to Assen) plus the added benefit of exciting scraps for podium positions from other members of the grid.
However it was an off-track move which has thrown a shadow over the on-track action so far…. that of Stoner’s announcement to a stunned press corps of his departure from the sport, at the end of the current season. The talented and often outspoken Aussie cited his retirement at the grand old age of 26 saying the sport had gone in a direction that doesn’t interest him and that he no longer takes enough enjoyment from the sport which justifies the sacrifices necessary to be competitive at the top of the sport.
No sooner had this bombshell landed had speculation began on the World Champion’s replacement – with both series leader Lorenzo and fan/sponsor/media favourite Valentino Rossi rumoured to jump ship to the Repsol Honda HRC squad. As a result Yamaha moved quickly to retain their prize rider Lorenzo, leaving Rossi with a possible get-out opportunity after eighteen months of underachievement at Ducati. This one will run and run….
Back on circuit British fans ‘dare to believe’ as home grown favourite Cal Crutchlow sits in a dizzy fourth in the blue riband class whilst the American
Dream looks set to be dying for Ben Spies after a crisis of confidence and some poor results. The fact that these two riders sit in a satellite (Tech 3) and full factory (Yamaha Racing) squad respectively and the obvious opportunity, has not been lost on the UK media and fans.
MotoGP now has a class-within-a-class, or to the detractors, a ‘sideshow’ – the new for 2012 CRT or Claiming Rules Team machines. With ‘production’ engines allowed in prototype chassis’, this brave new world has angered purists but crucially boosted the ailing grid to respectable numbers and is host to some of the elder statesmen of thesport in the shape of Colin Edwards as well as some young pretenders hoping to impress.
One thing that has remained a constant for factory, satellite and CRT squads has been the tried and tested suspension of Öhlins – with all but two teams running this most established of equipment. Swedish equipment is also seen on 90% of the Moto2 and Moto3 squads with the latter undergoing radical changes, out goes the 2-strokes in the form of the 125cc machinery and in comes the new four-stroke 250cc single cylinder bikes. The distinctive sound of the two strokes have been replaced with the noise of a cloud of angry wasps at each GP.
WSB – The Veterans fight on!
As the World Superbike series reaches it’s Summer break it has been the ‘Old Boy Network’ of GP refugees, Biaggi, Checa and Melandri, who continue to show the way to the ‘young guns’ in terms of race wins with eleven victories shared between them up to the Aragon round.
However two young lions in the shape of Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes have, with determination and consistency, raised their profiles to second and third in the rankings.
As the series celebrates its 25th anniversary the ‘playing field’ has never been more evenly matched with six winners from six different teams in the thirteen races so far.
The top nationalities in the standings are predominantly Italian and British and the organisers will inevitably be looking to widen the ‘gene pool’ as the series looks further afield (Russia in ’12, India and Indonesia in ’13).
For the guys in gold, Öhlins is the equipment of choice for nine out of the top ten riders in the standings as they look to continue their domination in this most successful of production bike classes.
Around the Territories…
The main National Superbike championships are still the breeding ground for future WSB and MotoGP champs and many have a huge divergence of support classes and participation.
The British Superbike series was won last year by home-grown hero Tommy Hill, pipping ex-GP hero John Hopkins by a hair’s width 0.006 seconds in a Öhlins shod 1-2. Tommy continues to lead the series in ’12 at the time of writing on his Swan Yamaha and has been rewarded with a shot at the prestigious Suzuka 8 hour in Japan with the original Sultan of Slide, Noriyuki Haga. You can read more about the BSB series here.
Once the most revered series in the world, the US AMA Superbike championship has fallen on rocky ground in recent years but there are strong signs of recovery with returning crowds, teams and great racing. At time of writing an Öhlins trio ‘lock out’ the top spots with 2011 Champ Josh Hayes leading Suzuki Yoshimura’s Blake Young and his Graves Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin.
In the off road scene the Monster Energy Yamaha team has seen a promising World MX Championship campaign plagued by injury with high flying MX2-GP riders Zach Osborne and Arnaud Tonus both missing rounds. Osborne also had his 2011 season similarly ruined after a stunning start. Team boss Steve Dixon is a long time Öhlins expert, running a specialist MX suspension Centre in the UK.
In the massive Stateside Outdoor and SX races the Öhlins USA squad continues to progress as both a developmental and ‘flag waving’ exercise in the World’s biggest MX market. Expect a full in depth feature on the team in the next edition of Performance…
Once the most revered series in the world, the US AMA Superbike championship has fallen on rocky ground in recent years but there are strong signs of recovery with returning crowds, teams and great racing. At time of writing an Öhlins trio ‘lock out’ the top spots with 2011 Champ Josh Hayes leading Suzuki Yoshimura’s Blake Young and his Graves Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin.
09 – Öhlins and Lamborghini – Partners in passion and performance
When it comes to automotive exotica, few countries can rival the Italians. And even those that can tend to live in the shadow of a nation that is steeped in racing heritage, lauded for its engineering history and envied for its effortless design excellence…
AThe Aventador is Lamborghini’s latest proof of the above statement. The name for this latest €255,000 Italian thoroughbred is taken from a bull, famous for its bravery in a Spanish bullfight having earned the Trofeo de la Peña La Madroñera at the Zaragoza Arena in 1993 for outstanding courage. Described by the Bolognese manufacturer as: “a new reference among super sports cars,” the bold, aggressive lines of the Aventador epitomise Italian supercar style while the depth of technology is way more than skin deep with a lithe, lightweight chassis and carbon fibre monocoque powered to a terminal speed 217mph (349kph) by an immensely powerful, 700bhp V12 engine.
Lamborghini’s dedication to building the best supercar that they could has resulted in some amazing new technological developments. The immense power is managed by several drivetrain ECUs, managing and metering the power output to each wheel through the Aventador’s sophisticated four-wheel-drive system incrementally to achieve the best balance of drive and grip.
Naturally, refinements inside the car are as you’d expect from a car of this pedigree with the driver cosseted by a full leather interior, the driving experience enhanced by a state of the art stability control system, intelligent ABS and brake distribution along with three engine performance modes available at the push of a button to suit the driver’s mood. A navigation system with traffic data and iPod connectivity ensure that the interior of the Aventador is always a happy place to be.
Of course all of this style, technology and performance would only be well-honed muscle without the kind of agility that Lamborghini has bred into each and every one of its supercars over the years. Always striving to improve and keeping ahead of the competition is never an easy task. Every advantage, every gain that can be made is welcomed, no matter how small. And when it came to the perfect suspension set-up for the Aventador, a technical partner with a similar attention to the tiniest detail and the same desire to outperform the competition was an absolute must. Thus there was only one choice when it came to ensuring that the Aventador became the best handling Lamborghini to date. That choice was Öhlins.
Öhlins’ history with helping Italian engineers to achieve superb handling goes back a long way. In the two-wheeled world, some of the most exotic motorcycles ever built have been fitted with Öhlins suspension with manufacturers such as Ducati, Aprilia, MV Agusta and Benelli all insisting on those trademark gold forks and yellow springs to ensure road holding that is unsurpassed by their rivals.
So how did Öhlins put shock absorbers on the Lamborghini Aventador? The company started with a proven damper type, a conventional mechanical damper of the same type that has been used in NASCAR racing. This damper type was deemed especially suited to cope with the high forces a heavy supercar generates. After that the engineers put a lot of effort into making this race damper silent and comfortable, functional down to minus 40 degrees Celsius and be reliable for at least 200 000 km of usage so it could meet the high demands set by Lamborghini Another demanding factor was the placement of the rear dampers in the rear engine compartment. The heat generating from the supercar’s engine meant Öhlins had to find special bushings to withstand this heat and the Öhlins stickers on the dampers also had to be modified to cope with the heat. The dampers also had to be fitted with electrically adjustable actuators to lift the car up to cope with curbs and speed bumps. The end result was a supercar with superb handling that can be used everyday.
Öhlins Project Manager Rade Catovic explains, “We had to do a lot of work with testing and certifications to meet these demands and we especially spent a lot of time working on making the damper as silent as possible. Considering the demands Audi and Lamborghini had, the Aventador really is one of the rare supersport cars that can handle both everyday use and driving on race tracks”.
Öhlins’ racing heritage also draws many parallels with the Italians. A shared outlook that while performance is paramount, the aesthetics should never be overlooked with the question of form over function never being raised, the two working together in perfect synchronicity. And that’s exactly what Lamborghini and Öhlins have achieved with the Aventador.
For a look at the incredible new Lamborghini Aventador click here and be prepared to be blown away!
10 – Prodrive – Where legends are made…
The World Rally Championship (WRC) is quite possibly one of the toughest challenges in motorsport. Competitors are often only separated by mere fractions of a second, despite tackling difficult and varied terrain, often in blistering heat, freezing or seriously wet conditions. In short the WRC is the ultimate test of man and machine. History and legends have been created on the tarmac of Corsica, the snow of Sweden, the plains of Africa and the dark forests of Wales…
Few success stories are as compelling as Prodrive’s own. The British engineering and technology firm has been at the very heart of rallying for more than 27 years notching up more than 100 international rallies and six World Rally Championships. Their motorsport involvement also stretches beyond rallying with successful touring car, GT and endurance racing programmes but it is perhaps their rally success for which they are best known and specifically their success with Subaru.
However all good things must come to an end and Subaru moved away from rallying after an incredible and successful 20 year relationship with Prodrive. The Japanese manufacturer withdrew from World Championship rallying in 2008.
Prodrive has been host to many top competitors over the years but two British legends stand out in particular. They are Colin McRae, and Richard Burns, sadly neither is with us today but both remain heroic figures in a sport that marks out the men from the boys.
The sight of the iconic pearly blue and yellow Subaru Impreza WRC car flat out over a jump, McRae at the helm with that distinctive warbly gargle delivered from the flat four engine is an image many will have etched on their mind.
With such successes under its belt it is no surprise to find that today Prodrive and Öhlins are in technical partnership. Öhlins itself has been involved in rallying since 1988 and the list of manufacturers they have worked with is long and distinguished. Rallying serves up a useful challenge to Öhlins as Mats Thorsell from Öhlins Racing explains, “We have been competing in rallying for over 20 years, it is probably one of the toughest and intense environments to test our technology and as such rallying is an invaluable platform to develop our products.”
The importance of high quality suspension components for rallying is not to be underestimated, as David Lapworth, Prodrive Group Technical Director points out, “During rally conditions and in particular at World Rally Championship level we encounter some of the most challenging and diverse terrain in motorsport. The energy going through the car is enormous and this has a big impact on our suspension selection where adjustment, quality and dependability are fundamental to getting the performance out of our car.”
The latest WRC challenger developed by Prodrive is the MINI Countryman WRC car which is fitted with a bespoke Öhlins suspension system. It’s an important relationship as Lapworth explains, “We work very closely with our technical partners and with suspension technology being a fundamental part in the development of a competitive rally car, our relationship with Öhlins Racing has been vital.”
In 2011 the MINI Countryman WRC car proved to be competitive straight out of the box and competed at a limited number of rounds with success in what was largely a development year, podium finishes and a number of stage wins proved the package was strong.
The MINI Countryman WRC car will again be competing in 2012 in a selection of events. Development of the car continues and Öhlins Racing remain a key partner. Thorsell continues “We are very proud of our partnership with Prodrive, their MINI Countryman WRC programme has shown great promise and I’m glad we have been a vital part of that.”
WRC Rally Finland is the next chance to see the MINI Countryman in action, running from the 2nd – 4th August.
To learn more about Prodrive and their WRC programme visit www.prodrive.com
ÖHLINS AND RALLYING…
1988 saw the firm’s first foray into rallying, developing Sierra Cosworth dampers for the original Stig, Mr Blomqvist. At the time, Ford, like many other teams used to have to bring literally hundreds of set-rate damper options on event with them, having to change the entire set-up for each and every stage, to suit weather and surface conditions. Öhlins engineer Thomas Pettersson saw a much easier way and developed adjustable dampers instead; meaning teams only had to carry a handful of spare dampers instead of an entire service-barge full.
The sport changed overnight. Around this time, another Swedish driver, Harri Joki turned to Öhlins to develop an adjustable solution for his 2WD Peugeot 205 and 306 rally cars. Öhlins in-house guru Lars Osth created a set-up using existing Öhlins components – and the start of what we know as their ‘kit system’ was born.
The early ’90s saw Öhlins partner with Toyota Team Europe, creating dampers for the legendary Celica Group A car and subsequently the later Toyota Corolla WRC machine.
The Mitsubishi Lancer with Tommi Mäkinen at the wheel, dominated World rallying in the late ’90s, culminating in no less than four Championship wins on Öhlins dampers. This partnership continued into other off-road genres, with the Paris-Dakar Pajeros also relying on the damper’s unique characteristics and legendary build quality.
Since then, the list of manufacturers that has relied on Öhlins has been as long as it is impressive. Hyundai’s WRC effort, Peugeot’s WRC customer builds, and even Prodrive’s ill-fated 2009 car have all flashed the gold under their flared arches . Latterly, the firm has moved its attention towards Group N, where they have proved to be an obvious choice to teams and constructors running Subaru and Mitsubishi. 2WD pedallists were always catered for too, however, with Renault’s Clio and Megane packages also rolling out of their respective factories on Öhlins.
So in the bowels of Öhlins near the dark Swedish forest tracks there will always be a strong passion for rallying…
11 – ‘Me and my Öhlins’ – A very unorthodox project…
Founded on the legendary Kings Road in Chelsea, London way back in 1924 by Captain Frederick James Warr, Warr’s Harley-Davidson has never been a ‘normal’ Harley dealership. That statement can also hold true of a slightly mysterious customer who ordered the incredible 110,000 Euro ‘Unorthodox’ custom built machine…
A picture tells a thousand words and as you can see the image above takes some describing…
We’ve all seen custom cruisers with chromed wheels, high bars, studded seats and the like but rarely do you see one that has been customised with a set of Öhlins FGR900 forks!
The machine started life as a 2010 Harley-Davidson Fatboy and this very open-minded customer wanted his bike to be the ultimate in individuality.
Charlie Stockwell, Head of Design & Custom at Warr’s, explains, “So this customer, lets call him Mr X, has been with us for many years and has a fantastic collection of beautiful bikes and cars. One day he said to me, ‘OK build me the most outrageous bike you’ve ever built, no budget ceiling, I totally trust you but it’s got to be completely different to anything you’ve ever done before!’
I must admit to be given a free rein like that was incredible, I thought right let’s do something totally unique. As I personally love both custom cruisers and big powered MotoGP exotica I thought why not combine the two?!”
Stockwell, who designed and handbuilt every square cm of the machine, explains the process;
“The base machine was stripped down leaving just the engine and chassis. The oil tank was removed from beneath the seat and the chassis re-shaped to drop the solid, one-of-a-kind, carbon fibre solo saddle- giving an extreme slammed ride height and position.
A new oil tank was fabricated to fit inside the original teardrop shaped Fatboy fuel tank. We crafted the high-low dual exhaust system which houses the rear lights in the carbon mufflers. To enhance the bikes fierce stance only a pair of the highest spec Öhlins FGR900 front forks paired with Öhlins Softail rear suspension would do. Gareth from Reactive Suspension and our own in-house race mechanics fitted heavier springs and tuned it to the increased mass and its strange geometry.
We custom made CNC triple trees to mount the forks to the frame. Brembo monobloc calipers were fitted to deal with the brute force of the new tuned 113ci Screamin’ Eagle H-D Engine which we covered with glossy black powder coating and the cooling fins were diamond cut for a show sparkle. Carbon fibre, race style clip-on handlebars were fitted with Performance Machine controls to match the huge wheels wrapped in Metzeler rubber, 3″ open primary drive and foot controls.
The engine itself we took from 96 cubic inches (1596cc) to 113ci (1890cc) meaning that the crankcases were bored, new cylinders and bores fitted, new CNC created heads polished and ported plus a set of high compression pistons utilised.”
With four other projects now boasting Öhlins, we ask what is the fascination with the brand for a builder of American custom cruisers?
“I guess I love the in-your-face attitude of the forks, the level of quality of the componentry and quite simply you know that they are the best in the World, if all the teams buy them you know they are the ‘nuts’ !
As Europe’s oldest Harley dealership Warr’s have a successful racing history of their own; supporting the legendary Cal Rayborn in his ‘Transatlantic’ campaign days and more recently taking Jeremy McWilliams to Daytona 200 success on a Buell- using Öhlins, which is now OE on Erik Buell Racing Motorcycles. The company also won the Harley-Davidson XR1200 series (again with McWilliams) run alongside the BSB series using Öhlins equipment.
You can learn more about Warr’s at www.warrs.com , on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
To get your bike or car featured in ‘Me and My Öhlins’, write to us here
Unorthodox Softail – 2010 Fatboy
Design & Build: Charlie Stockwell (Head of Design & Custom) Warr’s Harley-Davidson
Chassis: H-D Softail (modified)
Swingarm: H-D Softail (modified)
Suspension Front: Öhlins FGR900
Suspension Rear: Öhlins for H-D Softail
Triple Trees: Warr’s Racing by Promach Engineering
Engine: H-D Twin-Cam B 113ci – Screamin’ Eagle- tuned by Warrs Racing
Trans: H-D 6-Speed
Primary Drive: 3″ Open Primary by Performance Machine
Exhaust: Warr’s Customs
Brake Calipers: Brembo Monoblocs
Wheels: Riviera by Performance Machine
Brake Discs & Pulley: Riviera by Performance Machine
Tires: Metzeler ME880
Forward Foot Controls: Performance Machine
Carbon Solo Saddle: Warr’s Customs & Triple Six Racing
Carbon Clip-On Handlebars: Warr’s Customs & Triple Six Racing
Carbon Belly Pan & Hugger: Warr’s Customs & Triple Six Racing
Lever Protectors: Rizoma
Headlights: Warr’s Customs
Rear Lights: Warr’s Customs (integrated into Mufflers)
Gas Tank: Warr’s Customs (modified Fatboy original)
Photography by MLoFoto www.mlofoto.wordpress.com